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Sunday, June 29, 2014


Among the aboriginals (Orang Asli) who still dwell in the jungles are partially nomadic. They live in an enclave for some years and when resources in the area are depleted they move to a new area for livelihood. Whereas, those who settled in communities closer to towns have been provided with proper housing and facilities by the government.

Five families are putting dwellings in a small flattened space by the side of the Spg. Pulai - Kg. Raja road. It is cool up there by the mountains where several years ago I have sneaked to open land a km away from their present settlement.

When I go for short visit at my kebun, I have a close opportunity to keep track of the OA making their new homes. I have yet to meet any of them.

The area they chose was flattened when MTD (Malaysia-Thai joint venture) built the road. First they slashed the thick Neprolepis ferns and burnt them. From the nearby jungle trees they obtain straight posts (6) and poles needed for the uprights, beams, flooring and walls of the house.

The foundation structure of the house is ready. Two layers of flooring are needed, poles for the lower layer are tied further apart while the upper layer closer.

Bundle of fresh Serdang palm leaves for the roof.

Thatching of the palm leaves using rattan onto the beams of the roof.

The roof half-ready.

Poles are tied over the roof to weigh it down.

Flooring of split bamboo.

Bamboo for the walls are first splintered (hammered) and them split open to a flat plank like.

A dwelling, room for two about ready to move in. Walls of flattened bamboo.

I do not have a shelter built for my kebun yet. May be I may ask them to build one for me. In that way I could get to know them and be friendly.

Bah Botak, an OA that I met quite recently asked me what is my name. "Bah Din", I said! 

Another OA, Dolah just could not get my name right. He called me Kamarudin. His wife passed away and his hut got burned one windy day. He got frequent headaches and always asked for Penadol. I have not visit him for sometime. This Ramadhan is a good occasion to bring him some rice and other stuffs.


An original Minangkabau house in Sumatra with curved roof resembling buffalo horns. The small hut on the right is for storing threshed padi grains, kapok in Bahasa Malaysia and kuie amongst the Minangs of Gomoncheh.

Istana Sri Menanti, Kuala Pilah, multi-tiered but lack the traditional roof style.

Balai Adat in the past, Sumatra.

The region in West Sumatra was where the Minangkabaus migrated mainly to N. Sembilan. In Melaka they are found in Pulau Sebang, Selangor in Beranang. 

The Minangkaus in W. Sumatra either live in the coastal area (pesisir) or hinterland (rantau).  Those who came to N. Sembilan broadly belonged to the three groups (Luak Nan Tigo) in the areas marked in the map below: 1. Luak Tanah Datar (rantau), 2. Luak Agam (pesisir) , and 3. Luak Lima Puluah Koto (rantau).

When they opened up land and settled in N. Sembilan, a number provinces (luaks) were demarcated  to facilitate governance in keeping with the Adat. Luak Sungei Ujung is the most powerful  in terms of Adat because it is where the Yam Tuan reside. 

Used to be that buffalo fighting is a favourite sport amongst the Minangkabaus where the winning (menang) buffalo (kerbau) and owner  (hence Menang kerbau shortened to Minangkabau) are  greatly esteemed. 

It becomes a cultural identity when man-buffalo association in everyday life happenings and work are closely linked. There bound to be some sort of co-evolution in cultural inputs when both man and animal become dependent on each other for livelihood and survival.

Pleasant scenery of vast paid fields was common in the kampongs 30 years ago. But now, practically all the padi fields (sawahs) are gone. After years of abandon the sawahs are filled with belukar, or planted with oil palm and some other crops, or animal husbandry.

What when wrong? There answer is not enough water going to the padi fields: 
1)  improper or inefficient water management by the authorities especially the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) and Department of Agriculture in the construction of canals to the padi fields.  
2) reservoirs built upriver have reduced water flow.
3) deforestration and other developments resulted in siltation of rivers and they are reduced to canals. This river in the picture below used to be deep and much broader where even crocodiles were found. When I was little I would see DID workers paddle a canoe  to remove logs and overhanging branches on the both sides of the river. On the left side of the river were padi fields now converted into dusun.
4) with the agricultural rice base diminished rural-urban migration of youth increased leaving the older folks to tend the padi fields. 

After a decade or more of neglected or abandoned padi fields, the young generation in the kampongs simply do not know how to grow padi. Along with it is the lost of culture associated with padi growing.  

One of the cultural activities is 'mengoca', a communal fishing drive when water in the dam is released into the river (instead of being diverted into the irrigation canals) done when the padi plants are mature but not ripe. Apparently this type of activity is common within the Malay Archipelago and Austronesia eg. Fiji.

Without padi cultivation and its attendent culture/adat NS is a failed Minangkabau enclave. Can NS revive padi cultivation? It would be possible to transform certain areas but require brave and innovative irrigation technologies and government commitment to run them in a commercial way such as being successfully done by FELCRA Seberang Perak.

In the Minangkabau homeland, Sumatra hand weaving provides part of material culture. Apparently this skill was not much a practice in NS when the Minangs migrated there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Benten at the westernmost part of Java. It was later known as Bantam during  Dutch rule who occupied the province in 1684. They first colonised Batavia in 1619.

Raja (Kiayi Mas Patih Mangkubumi) on the right, qadhi, most likely Kiayi Dukuh who came from Mekah on the left. They were deliberating in the Masjid Besar, Benten in 1596. Court  attendents looking after sheep imported from Persia by the palace.

Farmers at Benton market, 1596. The illustration is actually on non-Muslim religous followers wearing bark attire (dhluwang) who originated from Pasuruan and domiciled at 'Sura" at the foothills of Gunung Karang.

Gathering of Dewan Tinggi (High Durbar) a specifically Dewan Peperangan (War Durbar) at palace grounds, 1596.

Portuguese probably dealing for trade in Benten with the local ruler, 1596.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Owls are night animals. They see us we do not see them. That make them somewhat scary. They are killers of the night. They prowl for preys with special night vision apparatus. 

They can zoom in into snakes, rats, cicadas as shown in the pictures below. Thus, owls are useful to man because they act as vanguards against certain pests in agriculture  - cobra snakes in oil palms, rats in padi fields, large insects that feed on plants.

Zooming into a cobra.

Sharp claws and beak grasping the prey.

Rats are big nuisance in paid fields because they gnaw the rice stalks when about harvest season. As an integrated pest control measure owl shelters placed on high posts are located in padi fields. 

An owl with an intimidation look in its eyes on flight with a small rat between its beaks.

An owl with a satisfied look with a green cicada firmly abutting rear end out in its bite.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


At one time the Volkswagen beetle was the most ubiquitous car in many parts of the world. My elder brother who was in the army, his first car was a beetle. That was how I got the early rides in one.

Volkswagen assembly line, Germany.

Running on alcohol, Brazil.

In the war zone, Ulster.

Unique rear engine air-cooled system. Earlier on Mr. Honda of Honda cars had also produced air- cooled engine cars in Japan but many of his top engineers did not share the approach. Honda had to forgo the idea after some years of haggling and stick with the conventional water-cooled system.

My neighbour Ah Pong told me this true story according to him. One Malay fellow who just came from oversea studies asked him to come along to a Volks showroom in Kuala Kelawang. They decided for a test drive in a beetle. After some miles the car suddenly stalled. They came out from the car to check what was wrong. They opened the hood, lo and behold, there was no engine! They were shocked. They decided to open the booth. By god, luckily we got a spare engine, the Malay friend exclaimed!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


We got a taste of end of summer life in downtown Toronto, Canada where we were on holiday for a couple of weeks. We did quite a bit of window shopping. During the previous visit we went to Niagara Falls about an hour's drive from Toronto.
One late afternoon our son brought us to an arts exhibition close by where he lives. At the entrance to the park, a Latino band of Colombians were jamming their favourite songs. Although I do not know Spanish, I have always like Latino music, so I bought a couple of their CDs.

Selling trinkets on a small trolley pulled by bicycle. Part of the park greenery in the background.

Several drink and fast food stalls to cater for visitors.

We bought one the handmade pink bowls as a table decor for our son's apartment which he newly moved in. The beautiful lady admiring the glasswork is my better half.

Some of the paintings and artworks for sale by local artists.

Uncle Sam got to be there overlaid by Marilyn Monroe or someone like her!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Book titles of early writings by Peranakan in The Archipelago of Tanah Melayu and Indonesia include:

a) Tanah Melayu (Malaysia)

b) Indonesia

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) are small groups of islands to the southwest of Java and northwest of Australia. Malay communities have settled on them generations ago. Due to their smallness in number they are close knit which enable them to maintain much of their culture.

The Malays of Cocos (Keeling) islands are already presented in an earlier blog post.